Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Zen Cat

from a 1982 journal by Vickie Aldrich
Zen Cat’s name wasn’t always Zen Cat, at first she was named Lemon and then when I got her I called her Kit Kat, which is actually her name. Her name never was Zen Cat, I just call her that sometimes on account of what she did that year that I lived at the Zen Center in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.
The reason I got a cat in the first place was to help me relate to men. Now this made perfect sense to me at the time.  I had been living in various houses or apartments and had gotten into the habit of having male roommates. These were always roommates and not lovers, which would have been nicer but it never seemed to work out that way.  In an attempt to break this pattern I decided I was going to live by myself, I was going to get a cat so I wouldn’t be so lonely and also, I felt that if I learned to form a relationship with a cat it would help me to form a relationship with a man. My friends continually pointed out to me that men and cats are not of the same species.
Well, the Goulds were going to get a kitten too and the people they were going to get it from had two left.  So we all went down south of Albuquerque and picked up Zen Cat, who was being called Lemon at that time and was the last cat given away because she could hide the best and was really hyper.  Her owner, put her in a bag, which I put in the back seat of my car. This was to be my new roommate. I never liked the name Lemon, I had a car I called the ‘magic lemon’, it was one of those first Honda cars, a 600 coupe with a two cylinder engine, the kind people would always joke about. Things like ‘where is your other roller skate’ or ‘are you a midget?’, too which I would calmly reply, ‘yes’ causing them great embarrassment. I’m not actually a midget, but I’m not very tall, 5’ 0” or actually 4’ 11 and 3/4ths inches.
Zen Cat came home with me and promptly hid underneath the refrigerator of the apartment for 2 weeks.  She would come out when I was at work and eat her food and then go back under the refrigerator. I felt rather discouraged at my attempts to relate to other life forms.
A couple of months after I began living alone, an old friend moved back to town and needed a place to stay, so she and her two year old son moved into the apartment and the cat, which was sometimes referred to as Kitty Cat and sometimes referred to as Miss Underfoot would come out and run crazy around the apartment with the two-year old, who was sometimes called Diniya and sometimes called Aire or Momo and people began kidding me about living alone.  Especially when my friend’s boyfriend got to town and there were three adults, one kid and one cat in my little apartment.  This place being crowded, I rented a house, which was closer to my work, as the Magic Lemon had died and was sold for $50 to a junk yard. I was faced with taking the bus to work, which often took an hour and a half to make connections. By car it was 15 minutes but I had little money and didn’t feel responsible enough to take care of a car, so Zen Cat and I moved up to the North Valley to be near the Yogurt and Sprout business.
My three human roommates left to be replaced in a month by another ‘old friend’, another plutonic male relationship. I was beginning to give up on the whole idea of controlling my living situation, and decided out of desperation, on realizing I was reaching the great age of 30, that it was time to do something drastic. So Kit Kat and I moved up to the Zen Center in the Jemez Mountains.
I gave away (rented out) most of my belongings, such as desk and bicycle and wok, stored a bunch of things at houses of friends and went to do the “Buddhist Thing”.
I liked the Buddhist thing, the smell of the incense, the sound of the bells ringing and people clapping wood clappers.  Hours of sitting still in black robes looking at the floor, it felt so natural I decided I must be a reincarnated monk from 16th century Japan.
Kit Kat didn’t do as well as I did, at first she had trouble with another cat who lived there, who was bigger than her, as she was still only a year old.  She also had problems living in my little room, she would go nuts but she didn’t know how to come and meow, as I was often gone. She began to meet me outside the meditation hall, as I was there at regular times.  This worked fine until the spring training period when she became more curious about what was happening inside and we had the door open during meditation time. At first she would sit on the outside window ledge during Teisha – when the Roshi (Zen teacher) gives his talk. Then she began coming in the door and sitting underneath the seat of the head monk in the Zendo, whom disliked her and was always threatening to ‘do away with her’. He would yell at me after we got out of the hall ‘I don’t want it to happen again, Vickie!’
 I needed to let the cat out as she became too hyper inside all day, but I couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t come into the Zendo. I became more and more distraught over the whole thing, and the cat became more bold. She would come in the door and go under the seats to the end of the hall where no one was sitting. I would suddenly hear this THUMP -  GA -  THUMP as she would jump upon the empty seats trying out the cushions. During this time I was suppose to sit still and let the officers take care of any disturbance. Meanwhile the other students were enjoying the diversion of the cat and trying hard to keep from laughing.  Roshi even said it was fine to have a cat in the Zendo because there were mice there.  But it left me between laughing because of the situation and crying because of the anger I knew the head monk would unleash upon me when the meditation was over.
This further discouraged me in my attempt to relate to men, but strengthened my relationship with the cat. Note: it probably added to my leaving the Zen Center in the summer.
I now have left the Zinc Center, as Magie calls it and Zen Cat and I live with Maggie (age 10), her parents, 2 goats, 7 rabbits, 12 chickens, 3 cats, 3 dogs, 8 gold fish, 5 tropical fish, one rat and one turtle with whom Zen Cat and I meditate every day.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Last Day of the Peace Crane Memorial

The last day of the Peace Crane Memorial
 Last weekend we set up the Memorial at Dia de Los Muertos. This project began 12 years ago in 2003 when the press was stopped from showing the coffins of those in the US Military killed in the war in Iraq,. Evidently there was an amazing amount of humidity 80%, but no rain, on Saturday night. When people came to help on Sunday, they found cranes and names on the ground. They had fallen off, glue dissolved by the moisture. Some names had stayed on but info was washed out. We estimate that 50 to 70% of the memorial was damaged.  Reverend Lind Mervin said it was a metaphor for the destruction of war. I was also thinking that the birds and spirits of the dead were ready to move on.
People talked of repair or modernizing it. I realized that the memorial wall as it has been has represented to me a continuing story. The names and birds that Tim and I and Jenny first put on were still there this year, yellowed and faded. We did those when she was beginning high school. Then there were the years we got hyper perfectionist, everything in order, birds made to perfection. Then we became overwhelmed and the Peace and Justice center helped with the first Pizza and peace events. The descriptions of how people died got larger and fewer names were put on one panel. The Quakers started helping out. It out grew the storage shed Tim had built for his tools and we moved it to BK’s and then to Kay Shades garage. The women of the Gate did a gluing session. Finally it came to the Quaker house inside and then into it’s own shed outside. The Rotary clubs helped to include Afghanistan deaths.
The memorial to me has been a story of the people involved with love in bringing it to the public. It marched in a 4th of July parade in Silver City, was displayed in Albuq, Santa Fe, and Deming. It went to Washington DC twice. A song was written about the trip. It is the story of peace people connecting with veterans and families of those on the Memorial as they found their loved ones. This began as a protest to war and has served as a community place of public grief over the impact of war.
I thought we were done in 2011 as the Iraq war ended and then David and the Rotary took us on into doing Afghanistan. Last year Tim created a sculpture for the suicides of veterans. The sculpture was not damaged by the humidity.
There are ideas and thoughts of a different way to display these names, as we have learned from the weather of NM, the original design was definitely not weather sturdy. I hope someone pursues it. Thanks to all who have helped with this work over the last 12 years. I began this as a leading not knowing it would last so long and go so far. The US government may have us in endless war but I will not continue to document it.  I have enjoyed the whole slow fragile story of it over the years and am happy to move on to other work.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dad meets the Edwardses

I haven't posted here in quite awhile. I got together with my Edwards cousins in May and thought I would like to share Dad's record of meeting the Edwardses. It is short. Some from one of his letters and some from a small journal he kept from Nov 1945 to March 1946.

Dad’s adventures meeting the Edwardses in 1945 – Thanksgiving. Note: he was working in Chicago at the AFSC office and Dorothy was working there as a secretary.
From a letter to his folks (11-29-45):
            I had a very nice and interesting Thanksgiving. One of the girls that work in the office invited George and I out to her home for dinner. George had already accepted an invitation but I snapped it up. They live out in one of the suburbs, about 30 miles. Train runs about every hour. I was to get on one at 12:30 and arrive at 1:14. I asked a guy I know how to get to the Union Station the easiest and quickest. He said take the “L” and you will go right by it. So I did. But he forgot to tell me that I should change trains or I would not go right by it. I missed my train and had to take the next one which got me out there about 3:00. I would have called them and told them I wasn’t coming except for the telephone strike. I figured they would be meeting the next couple of trains looking for me so I’d better go. When I got there I found that they had gone ahead and eaten but there was lots left and everything turned out fine.
From his journal:
11-23-45 Fri 7:05
Got up at 9:00 ate a pork chop and dashed off to catch a train out to Hinsdale where the parents of Dorothy Edwards live, to a Thanksgiving dinner. Missed the train & arrived late on the next train.
The Edwardses are very nice people. Mrs. E is a bit hecktic. A little like Billie Burke. They are quite a pair. Dorothy seems a little quieter at home, a bit overshadowed. I got a kick out of the whole deal. They are swell people & must have a lot of sense somewhere, 2 boys that are C.O.s (conscientious objectors). One of them went to prison a while & is paroled now. Mr. E refused to buy bonds & caused a nice little stink. Sout fella!
The bet part of this job is the people I meet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thinking about our life

The summer is ending and I am back at work and living with a schedule. This might help me to do some regular writing. The letter of Dad's that I posted from Oct. 1944 is about thinking about life. I like his statement: "I wonder if in a way we don’t sort of make up our minds as to what we are supposed to do and then spend our life proving that we are right or wrong."
   I do not think that I figured out I was supposed to spend my life doing. I am now thinking about what to do now that I am in semi-retirement. I am now following the blogs of a few friends and am interested in what makes an easy to read and interesting blog.
  We have had a month of rain and rain and rain. So much that us desert creatures are actually getting a bit tired of clouds and rain. The weather is cooler and we are using our bicycles and scooter more and attempting to use the car less.
My dance with the IRS has gotten a bit of attention and can be read about on another blog: http://www.forbes.com/search/?q=Irs+eases+up+on+war+tax+resisters

October 13 1944


Dear folks,

            Another week is gone. Sometimes I am impressed with the way time gets by. I’m afraid that this letter isn’t going to amount to much. We havn’t had any more fires or much of any excitement. I find lots of things to do to keep my interested in life. I think that I mentioned the group that was discussing the use of time. Well, we are still discussing. It seems very interesting to me and I think that I am learning a lot about myself and human nature too.

            It soaked through me the other day that even though I thought that I had been thinking I was just scratching the surface. I began to realize how many thinks I did that I wasn’t sure why I did them. I seemed to feel that they were right but I didn’t know why. Now, I wonder how sure we can be that these things are right. I think that the biggest thing to think through is the direction in which our life is going. What do we want to do with this world we have and this mind we have to work with? I think that once we have a workable idea of what we are doing on this earth and what we can do with the immediate situation. I wonder if in a way we don’t sort of make up our minds as to what we are supposed to do and then spend our life proving that we are right or wrong. It seems to me that we could plan something more efficient than that.

            Thanks lots for the dough. Thanks to Mom for the Cookies. I have had them for several days and they certainly are good. Those top ones really stood that trip well. They are the best for shipping. However the rest tasted equally as good. The boys all like them.

            It is good to know that Eileen is feeling more her old self, She is probably back to school by now.

            Well I seem to be written out this time. I got a good letter from Evelyn which I was glad to get. I ansered it a couple of days ago. She seems to be doing much better.

                                                Yours with love

P.S. The Klocksiem (?) deal don’t look bad if you can get the machinery.

Posted in envelope with “Build Friendships not Warships for National Defense” on the front and “The world has tried war with force and has utterly failed. The only hope of success lies in peace with justice. –President Calvin Coolidge, Cambridge, Mass., July 3, 1925. (500 of these envelopes for $1.60, postage paid, Mrs. C. W. Johnson, 38 Tyler St., Springfield, Mass.)” on the back

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Humbly winning an argument

Since I wrote quite a bit about my frivolous filing penalty with the IRS I thought I would share the end of the story. I thought it had ended in August of 2012 when I agreed to pay a $500 penalty instead of the $5000 penalty. I was blue about this but did feel that it was the best decision considering the situation. It turned out that the 500 dollars had already been taken along with an extra $200 from our daughter's college fund. So the IRS owed me $200 and I kept looking in the mailbox for it and Tim kept laughing.

I finally quit looking for that check and then in December of 2012 I get a call from one of the people I had spoken with at the IRS suggesting that I file a form 843 asking for a refund and abatement of the penalty. I did so and sent it off to Ogden Utah. Then in January I get a call from a tax advocate who has been assigned to my case who will call occasionally to tell me what is happening in terms of the maze of the IRS offices and where my paper is at. She says it is a long shot that I will get the refund and it could take a couple of years. When she checks in with me in April her tone has changed and she says it has gone to the Chief Counsels office in DC and that she is optimistic of my getting the refund. Then in May we come home the day before I head off to the Friends Peace Team meeting in St. Louis and there is a message on our answering machine that says; 'the IRS has agreed to drop the penalty, a check will be in the mail this Friday'. Wow, Woah, woot woot! Whatever else one can say. I got two checks one for the $200 and one last week for the $500 both + interest.

Then from the National War Tax Resisters Coordinating Committee came a memo saying based on my case a notice is going out to IRS workers that if a tax payer fills out a form correctly and adds in a letter of conscience the frivolous filing penalty does not apply. When I began to appeal the penalty I was reading about 'joyfully loosing an argument'. Now I find I need to work on 'humbly winning one'.

October 5th 1944


Dear Family,

            Just got your last letter today, thought I had better get back on the old schedule again so would answer youn’s a letter. I don’t know how much will come out, I may have to switch into double spacing to fill the page up.

            For lack of something more exciting I might mention some of the junk I have been thinking lately. I picked prunes on Mon. Tue., and Wed. this week and I found that I could make the time pass a lot more enjoyably by turning something in particular over in my mind. I mentioned the group that is meeting before breakfast and discussing problems I guess I told you we were starting out on the problem of how we use our time. We all have about three or four times as much that we would like to do as we get done. We feel that most all of these things are important and are a little dissatisfied if we don’t get some of them done. So I got to wondering why I did the things I did do. It seemed to me that there are a number of things that I do because I thoroughly enjoy doing them, like talking to people, reading, making things in the shop and the like. Then there are things that I do that I don’t enjoy in themselves to much as the other things. Like doing project work in the shop, picking prunes, making my bed, shaving, etc. Now the fact is I do all these thing quite willingly. Both kinds and in their rightful time and proportions, but some of them I enjoy more than others. I would rather work on my own wood-working projects than one fore the O&C. I would rather work on an O&C project that I can do in the shop than one that I have to do out in the rain or than picking prunes. Why is it? Why do I do it anyway? The thing that I think happens is that I realize certain compensation factors that balance up so that I feel that the lack in original enjoyment in made up. For instance when I go prune picking the compensatine factors probably are 1. -8 The farmer needs help to get his crop in. 2. -8 Some one from the camp has to do it and I am better suited to do it than some of the others. 3. -?-9 I can do some thinking while working at a mechanical job that I can’t do while working in the shop. 4. -8 I get a certain thrill out of seeing how many bushel of prunes I can pick up. Now, in contrast to this day’s work is a day spent in the shop working for the O&C. I think that the reasons I enjoy working would be: 1. -8 building things is interesting because it satisfies the urge in me to create things, new things with my hands and head, something that I build. 2. -8 I am making a small contribution to a biger project that does have national importance. (how ever I don’t think that it is very nearly the most important work we could be doing, but that is off the subject). 3. -4+5 This job gives me a chance to learn more about an occupation which I really enjoy doing and that may turn out to be a part of my future living. 4. -4+8+9 It gives me a chance to practice and learn better work habits, habits of doing a thoroughly good job no matter how much time it takes.

            Now, I was able to tie these though up with a previous theory of mine and number of other peoples too. That is: that people do things because they satisfy some one of a number of basic fundimental human needs. About the best list of these things is one I found in Dale Cannage’s How To Win Friends and stuff. As follows

                                                                                                            (this is my own too)
            1. Health and preaservation of life                                    9. Desire to improve oneself
            2. Food
            3. Sleep
            4. Money and the things money can buy
            5. Life in the hearafter (I add-Security)
            6. Sexual gratification
            7. The well-being of our children
            8. A feeling of importance.

I guess you have read that guy’s book. He goes big on the 8th one about a feeling of importance. I intend to do some thinking and reading on these things and maybe make a little different line up of them. I don’t know as I go so much for a life hearafter. I might substitute something about security of some kind. That hearafter deal means a lot to many people but it seems to me that it meets the need of security that they may not feel with earthly things so they have to feel thay are secure in having something after this life.

            Well, I’d like to tie up these things with my analysis of why I work. I’ll do it by number to save time and space.

            Well, what do you think of my analysis? It is interesting how much I do for the feeling of importance. Also the things that I enjoy doing more contribute more towards making money and self-improvement. I havn’t though through that list of findimental needs very much, I may find that some of those could go together.  Maybe that one of self improvement belongs to something else. Another thing is interesting about it. If I compare time spent as I like to spend it such as my free time I find that I do more creative things and self-improvement things. I also spend quite abit of time helping other fellows make things. It seems to me that helping others is one of the most satisfying things I do. The question I have is how the best way to help is, should I help them to do what they want to do or to help them to satisfy those basic fundimental needs. Well I have lots of questions that I’ll probably spend my life trying to find the answer to.

            How do you like this sort of letter once in a while? It has helped me organize my thinking to write it to you so you could understand it. If you have any questions, fire them.

            Yes, I want an absentee ballot whenever they can be had and, Dad, I’d like your advice on who are good men to vote for in State and county offices.

                                                Yours for another week